Energy efficiency: driving $279 million in electric system savings for New England

by George Twigg, Director of Public Affairs

How do you measure the value of something that you prevent from happening? This is a question we often face when it comes to energy efficiency.

On a conceptual level, we know that building additional capacity in our electric system through new power plants and transmission lines is expensive. If we use less electricity, the system requires less capacity, and those costly upgrades can be avoided or deferred to a later date. This keeps our electric costs lower than they otherwise would be.

Graphic representing energy efficiency and Electric System Savings for New England
Caption here if needed

The question is: how much lower?

For New England, energy efficiency adds up to big savings

To figure that out, you need to start by understanding how much impact energy efficiency is having on our overall electric load. To that end, we were really excited to see some recent news about the impact of energy efficiency on projections of the electric load in New England. It turns out that leading states like Vermont and Massachusetts, which have consistently reduced electric usage by about 2% per year for the last several years, are helping to significantly reduce electric load growth for our entire region, because those reductions add up over time.

So what does that translate into for savings? Back in January, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin lauded Vermont’s energy efficiency and renewable energy achievements in his budget address to the Legislature, noting that they have helped defer $400 million in transmission projects across New England. That’s a really big number, and I was curious to learn more about it.

The value of Vermont energy efficiency for the regional grid: $279,000,000

I reached out to VELCO, the entity that manages Vermont’s electric transmission infrastructure, and asked how energy efficiency has impacted their projections and planning in recent years. VELCO has been a national leader in the integration of energy efficiency savings into their planning forecasts, and is currently working hard to support a range of policies to reduce the growth of transmission costs for Vermonters.

VELCO recently updated their forecast to account for a variety of factors such as the latest energy efficiency savings impacts and impacts from renewable energy sources. The result was a finding that the construction of $399 million worth of transmission lines and other projects could be deferred. According to VELCO’s analysis, energy efficiency investments in Vermont accounted for about 70% of that savings, or $279 million.  

This figure of $279 million is the answer to the question posed at the beginning of this piece: How do you measure the value of something that you prevent from happening? While these savings are spread across the New England region, the benefit for Vermonters is still substantial, and comes on top of what individual Vermont families and businesses save through their own energy efficiency investments. The $279 million in savings is the result of the thousands of decisions Vermonters are making every day to be more energy efficient.

We don’t always realize how interconnected we are when it comes to energy use. Where do you see connections between your energy choices and the region, or even the world?

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